Farmer's Almanac predicts dry, but chilly Northwest winter

In this photo made Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, Farmers' Almanac publisher Peter Geiger, left, and editor Sondra Duncan pose in Lewiston, Maine, with a map showing the predicted weather forecast for the United States. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Decades of computerized weather and climate data has led NOAA forecasters to predict a warm and dry winter in the Pacific Northwest.

The mystery man behind the Farmer's Almanac winter forecast agrees on the dry part, but not necessarily on the warm part.

The Almanac's weather formula created by almanac founder David Young in 1818 was based on planetary positions, sunspots and lunar cycles. Since then, historical patterns, weather data and a computer have been added to the mix.

(Note: This is the Farmer's Alamanc, based in Maine, not to be confused wih the "Old Farmer's Alamac" out of New Hampshire, whose forecasts I put to the test in an blog entry earlier this year.)

The NOAA forecast is heavily influenced by an expected return of El Nino conditions. (Actually, I say "expected" but it's essentially here now. Officially in their monthly update where El Ninos and the like get officially declared, it's still "likely it's coming" but their weekly interim updates say we're there now. I expect September's official update will declare an El Nino is happening.)

El Nino winters are typically warm and dry across the Northwest and rest of the northern U.S., while it's cool and wet across California, the Desert Southwest, Texas and the southeast. That's due to the storm track generally drifting south and maintaining a storm track that roughly follows I-40 across the southern half of the U.S., leaving the north side dry and warm.

On the other hand, the Almanac forecast is going with a harsh New England winter and while it seems to agree on the Texas and southeast rain, doesn't really pick up on the expected deluge in California. And there was the already mentioned divergence on the temperatures in the Northwest, although I guess it depends on the almanac's definition of "chilly" and whether that means a colder than normal winter, or if a high of 50 in December still counts as "chilly".

We'll see next spring whose forecast was correct. For the record, I'd tend to lean more toward NOAA and El Nino's weighting, although not all El Nino winters end up warm and dry.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.